On the 5th of June, remember not only the birth of James Connolly,

but also the victory of Owen Roe at Benburb


By: Liam Murphy

Life in 17th century Ireland was going from bad to worse.  Even those native Irish Catholics who were still in possession of their land could, at best, only be inferiors in their own country, and that number was always shrinking.  Owen Roe O’Neill (nephew of the Great Hugh), one of the finest professional soldiers in all Europe, then in the Irish Brigade in the service of the King of Spain, was irreconcilably opposed to the new order in Ireland, and to those responsible for the injury being done to his homeland.  Owen Roe prepared himself to be able to sail to Ireland once the people had risen

In 1641 Irish frustration at the injustices of the Plantation, particularly in Ulster, erupted into violent opposition.  In 1642 Owen Roe returned to join the Rising, arriving at Doe Castle in Donegal in September accompanied by some two hundred Irish professional soldiers (including officers and sergeants), veterans of the Spanish-Irish regiments, together with military supplies.  The native force which he came to assist were no more the stuff of a professional army than were those American patriots who took refuge with George Washington in Valley Forge. 

Over the next four years Owen Roe O’Neill, and his cadre of Irish veterans, would do as fine a job as the Baron von Steuben would later do for Washington in the creation of a professional fighting force from men, many of whom were past masters at hit-and-run harassment, but had never stood in line of battle (this lack of formal training had been a fatal flaw at Kinsale at the beginning of the century, that even the intuitively brilliant Hugh could not overcome). 

Despite the nationalist intentions of the chief conspirator in bringing about the Rising and creating the form for a government for an independent Ireland, Ruairí Ó Mordha, King of Laois (and grandfather-to-be of Patrick Sarsfield), the revolutionary government of the Irish, however, wasn’t all that revolutionary, but rather a coalition known to history as the Confederation of Kilkenny

 Between 1641 and 1649, for the first time since the Norman conquest, and the last before 1922, Ireland was recognized by the international community as an independent nation.  Even though the Cromwellian conquest of 1649/50 made short work of Catholic Ireland's revolution (which wasn’t exclusively Catholic), it nevertheless ranks as one of the most successful revolts of early modern history. 

 The brightest star in the Gaelic firmament was Eoghan Ruadh Uí Néill (Owen Roe), and, on the road toward that sovereign Irish republic he sought to achieve, his crowning achievement was the Battle of Benburb, 5th June 1646

 Chick here for a related article 

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